To coincide with our list of digital events and conferences in 2016, I thought that I’d share a few insights into some research that I recently ran asking a small group of SEOs that I know what they would look for in an SEO event. My reason for asking? I have plans to run a small SEO event in Cardiff (where I’m based) and wanted to find out two things: 1) if there’s the demand for such an event in our little corner of the UK, and 2) what they would want from it. If you’re planning to run an event of a similar nature – whether very soon or in later years – where you are, then you may find some of these insights useful.
Gathering the data
As mentioned above, I contacted people that I know on the SEO scene in the Cardiff/South Wales area. Rather than conducting qualitative research (e.g. interviews), I asked each of them to fill out a mini-questionnaire, which I created using Typeform. I asked 15 questions, ranging from what they would want from an SEO event and when/where would suit them, to asking them for a bit of info on their skills as digital marketers. And what was the result? Here are the three biggest takeaways:
Insight #1 – SEOs want to learn about wider topics, not just SEO
In news that’ll likely surprise no one, we’re interested in broader digital marketing topics – that relate to and/or complement SEO – rather than just SEO itself and nothing more beyond it. I think that this has been a common understanding for a while now, especially given that Kelvin of BrightonSEO started to introduce more semi-related talks (such as advertising and UX) to his biannual conference at least a few years ago. It still remains true however, with two-thirds (c. 66%) of the respondents leaning this way.
[Tweet “Digital marketers like events that cover a wide range of topics – not just SEO”]
Insight #2 – The idea of site reviews is popular
This was the stand-out insight for me. I had the idea of doing live ‘site reviews,’ where the audience (other SEOs) and I would spend 15 minutes or so quickly critiquing a website and offering advice on quick fixes, keyword/customer focus, marketing strategies, etc. The idea seems to be a very popular one, with almost every respondent (93%) showing interest in seeing it happen. Perhaps this is something that could be brought out to a wider audience, at more and more events? You see this at some events already (e.g. RocketMill offer Web Clinics at BrightonSEO), but usually they’re in the form of private, 1-2-1 consultations. Doing it in a more public forum could be useful for members of the audience to learn what’s current and important, with special focus on a live case study. The only potential downside that I can see? If people ‘volunteer’ their sites to be reviewed, we’d probably need to get them to sign some sort of disclaimer – e.g. if someone in the audience offers a tidbit of advice that doesn’t work out well for them, there can’t be any blowback on that particular audience member or the event organiser (i.e. me)…
[Tweet “Live site reviews/audits could be the next big thing at digital marketing events”]
Insight #3 – We’re happy to pay for good advice
The plan for my meetup was to keep it free – but free events are a funny thing… In addition to obviously costing more money to run (unless you get a sponsor on-board), as you won’t be able to reclaim expenses from ticket sales but may have to pay for venue hire, you can expect a higher drop-off rate of attendees who express interest in advance – after all, it doesn’t matter if they decide not to attend at the last minute, but if they’ve paid something like £5 in advance then they may be less willing to cancel so readily. I was willing to run mine as a free entry event (and I still am), but it’s good to see that the vast majority of respondents (80%) would be willing to pay to attend. Clearly good advice and good networking with industry peers is worth paying a bit of money towards.
[Tweet “Free-to-attend events are great, but digital marketers are happy to pay for good advice”]
Link to full results
If you’re interested in seeing the full set of questions asked as well as the responses to each one, you can see them all here. Relating to running an SEO event in particular, I also asked SEOs what type of talks they’d want to see (e.g. individual talks vs. panels vs. ‘lightning’ talks) as well as what type of speakers they’d like to visit (whether local or hailing from further afield).
Well… I’m hoping to start running this Cardiff SEO meetup from 2016. I used to run music events during my time at uni (and in fact originally planned to go into a career in events management before accidentally stumbling into SEO instead), so it’ll be good to flex that muscle once again. And hey… although I only plan to keep it as a small affair (at least initially), BrightonSEO started life as a meetup down the pub, so I guess you’ll never know how these things will go…! 😉 What do you want from an SEO/digital marketing event in 2016 and beyond? Let us know in the comments below!